Grief support group meeting and comforting a member

A guide to grief support groups: what to expect and where to find one

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If you’re coping with the loss of someone close to you, it’s easy to feel like you have a dark and lonely journey ahead of you. It’s hard to talk to friends who might not have had the same experience as you and don’t understand what you’re going through. Fortunately, you don’t have to walk through your grief alone. 

Grief counseling groups are made up of individuals who are also processing the loss of a loved one. These groups give you time and space to share your emotions with others who might be experiencing the same feelings you are. They provide grief support, hope, guidance, and encouragement as you navigate this trying time. Participating in a grief support group will help you discover that others are struggling with loss too so you don’t feel so alone in your journey. 

Grief support groups: What to expect and how to find the right one

You may have heard of support groups geared toward those struggling with addictions or substance abuse, but grief support groups, in particular, focus on those who are mourning the loss of someone special. 

If you’re interested in joining a grief counseling group, follow our guide to find out more about what to expect and how to find the right one for you. 

What is a support group for grief?

A support group for grief is a gathering of people who share their experiences of loss with the goal of healing and recovering. These group sessions offer guidance and reassurance for those mourning someone who has passed away. They also provide recommendations and resources for processing death and managing grief. 

Grief group therapy comes in many shapes and forms. You can find both in-person and online groups, along with sessions that are geared toward specific categories. For instance, there are different support groups dedicated to children, teens, parents, families, and the LGBTQ community. There are also support groups that focus on specific kinds of loss, such as the loss of a spouse or partner, sibling, parent, or child. 

What to expect during a grief support session

Support group sessions are typically an hour to an hour and a half long. Usually, there is at least one group leader who oversees the session and facilitates discussions, along with a handful of participants who are all actively mourning a loss. Everyone will have the opportunity to share, but you’re not required to speak. In fact, it may take you a few sessions until you feel comfortable sharing your experience. 

Why would support groups for different kinds of loss be useful?

Grief counseling groups provide a space where you can connect with others going through a shared experience. A support group that aligns with your specific loss can be helpful because others are going through a similar kind of pain.

Every loss is painful, but we often grieve for different people in different ways. For example, if your son passed away as a toddler, your grief will vary greatly from someone who has just lost their 99-year-old father. All grief is valid — no matter who has passed away or when — but the way you mourn, process, and heal from each loss will be unique. 

Because of this, there are grief support groups dedicated to specific types of loss. To get the most benefit from your sessions, it’s best to find a support group relevant to the kind of loss you’ve endured. 

Read more: How to help children cope with grief

In what ways can groups be beneficial to those experiencing grief? 

Grief support groups provide you with a safe space where you can openly share your thoughts and feelings. You’re free to discuss whatever you’d like, whether that’s explaining the details that lead up to your loss or describing the pain you’re currently feeling. Because you’re sharing with an audience that is experiencing a similar struggle, you may find comfort in knowing you’re not alone. 

Speaking about your own experience with loss can be deeply cathartic, but it’s also beneficial to hear from others who are grieving. Their stories can help validate your own emotions, and it may even feel reassuring that others understand or sympathize with the depth of your grief. 

Group therapy sessions are also a good place to receive information on navigating grief. Often, those who oversee the support group have received grief training, so they have the knowledge and resources to help you on your journey. What’s more, other members tend to be open about sharing their own experiences with programs, books, literature, and grief strategies. Because everyone’s road to recovery is unique, it’s helpful to explore different ways to heal. 

What are the pitfalls of support groups?

The truth is, this form of therapy isn’t right for everyone. For instance, you may feel overwhelmed or anxious speaking to an audience or you might not connect with those in your group — and that’s totally ok. It can also be hard to be in a group that isn’t related to your type of loss (e.g., it might not feel relevant for a parent who’s lost a child to be in a group of adults who’ve lost their elderly parents).

That said, group therapy can be extremely effective, so we recommend attending more than one session to get a better feel for it or searching for another support group that may be a better fit for you. If you ultimately decide not to go with group therapy, don’t let that be the end of your journey — there are many ways to process your grief. Continue experimenting with and exploring different avenues to help you grieve in a healthy way

Resources for finding a support group for grief 

There are many different kinds of support groups available, so it’s just a matter of finding one that best suits your needs and preferences. You can find both national and local organizations, along with groups associated with places of worship, hospitals, or even funeral homes. 

Here are some organizations that offer grief support and resources. 

  • National Alliance for Grieving Children (NAGC): This organization provides support centers and camps specifically for children coping with a loss. 
  • The Compassionate Friends: Dedicated to families, this organization offers support groups and resources for those who’ve lost a child.
  • National Widowers Organization: This organization connects grieving husbands with one another online and hosts in-person support groups. 
  • COPE: For those who have lost a brother or sister, this organization focuses on sibling support groups and events. 
  • TAPS: This resource provides support and programs for those grieving the loss of a military loved one. 
  • HopeHealth: In addition to providing hospice services and many support groups, this organization offers one for the LGBTQ+ community. 
  • GriefShare: This network hosts weekly group grief sessions and events around the world. 
  • This online community provides forums, chats, and circles where those mourning can virtually connect. 
  • Grief in Common: Another online platform, Grief in Common, provides a place for people to connect, join live chats, and receive support over the internet. 

Going through the stages of grief can be challenging on your own, so don’t hesitate to reach out for support and guidance. With so many resources available, you’re sure to find a community that will help you on your healing journey. 

Read more: What is grief counseling, and how can it help?

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